By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Restaurateur Fares Tarabichi knows he’s blessed.
A refugee who escaped war-torn Syria, Tarabichi came to the Tempe to attend ASU and parlayed his knowledge into a successful trio of businesses — Foch Café & Bistro, The Crêpe Club and AZ Liquids.
“I know how blessed I am, because I was one of the lucky ones who was able to get out,” says Tarabichi, loosening his frequent smile.
He enjoyed his life in Syria. He frequently traveled to France to visit his grandparents, and that inspired his latest endeavor, Foch Café & Bistro. His grandparents, who died in 2021, lived on a street called Foch.
The restaurant is the brainchild of co-owners Tarabichi and chef Timothy Richardson.
“A lot of people tell me I’m crazy, because as soon as I have one concept going, I start another,” Tarabichi says with a laugh.
“But I just look at it as winning the lottery. I’m here. I became an American citizen. I tell most of my American-born friends that they hit the lottery. They’re better off than 80% of the world.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s always America. There’s continuous improvement. Working toward a more perfect union is what it’s all about. I’m just so lucky to be here. I don’t take anything for granted.”
The bistro offers an extensive menu that features hot and cold paninis, salads, freshly baked pastries, a coffee bar and to-go items from Foch Market. Crêpes are featured on the menu and can be paired with myriad gelatos. The craft cocktail menu includes drinks made with fresh AZ Liquids juices along with local craft beers.
Like Tarabichi, Richardson is no stranger to the Phoenix restaurant scene. Richardson attended Le Cordon Bleu, where he learned French cooking techniques. His resume includes experience ranging from cantinas to fine dining. Before opening Foch Café & Bistro, he was senior sous chef at the Arizona Biltmore.
“He’s very talented,” Tarabichi says. “We just clicked instantly. It’s like we had known each other for years. He was very easy to deal with, and I’m not very easy to be dealt with.
“Then I started seeing his spectacular talents. When he came up to me and wanted to do this together, it was a no-brainer.”
Tarabichi admits that sometimes he asks Richardson to “dial down the menu” because it’s a tad too fancy. Plus, he wants to keep it affordable.
“But, we didn’t want to be just another establishment on Mill that focuses on beers and drinks,” Tarabichi adds. “We want to be more sophisticated about it. I think we really hit it right on the head. He’s done a spectacular job.”
These days, Tarabichi’s job is “basically being a cheerleader for the company,” he says. “I don’t get to work in the business anymore. I’m mostly working on it. I’m making sure everything’s running smooth and making sure we can expand and grow.”
To do so, Tarabichi is working with Lettuce Entertain You, which owned the now-defunct Don and Charlie’s in Scottsdale.
“I was lucky enough that Rich Melman, the owner, started giving us advice,” Tarabichi says. “I thought that was the end of it. I obviously grabbed a notebook and started taking notes. Six months later, he gives us a call.”
Melman asked Tarabichi to fly to Chicago with his partner to meet his team. Since then, he has sent consultants to work with Tarabichi. All Tarabichi was “charged” was a promise to “pay it forward” someday with another promising young entrepreneur.
“There’s going to be an entrepreneur who’s going to come in and need help and just pay it forward,” Tarabichi recalls Melman telling him. “I’m just humbled by that experience. I’m just extremely appreciative. We are grateful for this amazing ride.”
He’s not alone in this journey. The fruits of this “amazing ride” are felt across the world in Syrian refugee camps in Turkey.
“We take some of the proceeds and send them there,” he says. “I talk to them almost once a week just to check in. They were saying they needed blankets because there’s a snowstorm. We try to do as much as we can. It puts things into perspective. No matter how hard or how bad of a day I’ve had, I could be stuck in a camp with no prospects, right? Sometimes I sit there and think, ‘How many people are there? If I was there, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. How many people there are missing out on this opportunity?’ It’s hard. It’s definitely heartbreaking.” CT
Foch Café & Bistro
21 E. Sixth Street, Tempe